Tackling Homelessness From Its Causes
It is disturbing to see in the street of the world largest economy, hundreds and thousands of homeless people; people who cannot afford the basic of needs of food, shelter clothing, and most importantly, love. The number of homeless persons in the country has not subsided despite efforts by government, local authorities and charity organizations. According to HomeAid, 3.5 million Americans, majority of which are children and the elderly, are homeless. Each day more than 700,000 people in the country are homeless and sleep on the street. These statistics are shocking considering USA is donating billions of dollars as foreign aid to alleviate poverty in other continents such as Africa and Asian. It is amazing how everyone tend to remember the homeless during festive seasons and holidays by giving them foods and clothing. I believe each of us happen to pass by a beggar or street residence as we go our job, yet we do not stop and think what is wrong with all the efforts being by the government and local authority to end this shameful phenomenon of homelessness. Most of these programs have failed to mitigate the problem of homelessness because they do not address the cause of the problem but offer a temporary solution to a permanent problem. The solution to the problem of homelessness is in understanding the characteristics of the homeless and the causes of the problem. By understanding characteristics of these people and the cause of homelessness, the concerned authorities can devise effective programs and policies to curb this problem.
What are the characteristics of the homeless?
It is estimated that 35% of the homeless persons are families with children. This section of the homeless is one of the rapidly growing sections. Every day the number of street families continues to swell. Another shameful statistic indicates that 23% of the homeless are US military veterans. Noble men and women who served their nation with diligent and patriotism are now sleeping in the cold of the night uncertain where their next meal will come from. 25% of the homeless are children aged below 18 years. These statistics question the credibility of our children welfare programs. 30% of the homeless are victims of domestic violence while more than 20% suffer from mental illness (National Student Campaign against hunger and Homelessness). It is important also to consider the distribution of homeless in terms of race and states. Homelessness is greatest in urban areas with Alaska, California, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Rhodes Island and Washington leading with the highest number of homeless persons. A report by the Council on Homelessness (2012) indicates that on every night over 50,000 Florida residence sleep on the street or on temporary shelter. In terms of originality, 39% of the homeless are non-Hispanic, 42% are African-American, 13% are Hispanic 4% are native-American while 2% are Asian (US, conference of Mayors, 2006). These statistics highlight that the at-risk person include children, veterans, persons with chronic and terminal illness and immigrants. Therefore, any viable program should focus on these at-risk groups.
What are the causes of homelessness?
According to Tammy Lee of the University of Florida, the main causes of homelessness can be categorized into lack of affordable housing, lack of adequate income and lack of needed services and treatment. The coalition for the Homeless outline the causes of homelessness as poverty, declining employment opportunities, declining public assistance and lack of affordable housing. Therefore, it is clear that homelessness is a social, political and economic problem that can only be approached holistically by targeting its cause. Homelessness is not just a problem of lack of affordable housing; it is also an indication of a collapse of our public health services that has abandoned the vulnerable in society. Apart from addressing the high level of unemployment among immigrants and at-risk community, the government and other concerned agencies should be in touch with reality. They should understand the complex nature of homelessness and ease the procedure involved in placing the homeless in permanent housing. Most of the home person end spending huge amounts of our budget through health care insurances; they use of a lot of resources are they are housed from one institution to the other; from psychiatric wards, to rehabilitation centers and temporary housing.
One of the reasons for failure by the department of children and family in most state is lack of connection with the homeless. They do not understand the psychology and characteristics of the homeless. Therefore, they end up putting in place lengthy and cumbersome procedures for one to be placed in a permanent house. For example, most states require a homeless person to be drug-free before being allocated a permanent; such a policy is not viable considering that a good number of street persons area addict and may take long to be rehabilitated. Our social fabrics and values have failed. This is clearly indicated by the number of chronically ill persons and mentally-ill persons in the street. It is a clear indication that the society continue to stigmatize mentally-person and neglect our elderly and terminally-ill. It is, therefore, also important for the society to reflect on their moral and assume its responsibility of caring for the sick and elderly.
Why people are homeless? The national coalition for the homeless. Retrieved from http://www.nationalhomeless.org/ on 30/9/2013.
Tammy Lee (2010). The leading causes of homelessness in the Sunshine State. Retrieved from http://www.usfsm.edu/ on 30/9/2013.
Top causes of homelessness in America. HomeAid. Retrieved from http://www.homeaid.org/ on 30/9/2013.
Overview of homelessness in America. National student campaign against hunger and homelessness. Retrieved from http://www.studentsagainsthunger.org/ on 30/9/2013.